Sex Trafficking

Senate Settles Trafficking Bill Controversy Over Abortion, But Immigration Amendments Could Still Stop Passage

Loretta Lynch vote also hangs in the balance.

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Alexander Rabb/Flickr

U.S. Senators today reached a deal on legislation addressing human trafficking. Passage of the "Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act" (JVTA)—along with a vote on the confirmation of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch—had been delayed for several weeks due to a partisan dispute over abortion funding for trafficking victims. 

CBS News explains the complicated compromise, which ultimately does not allow funds allocated under the bill to go toward abortions: 

The bill was held up earlier this year over a provision that would block money in a new victims' fund from paying for abortions. The provision goes further than similar anti-abortion clauses that Republicans have added to past laws, Democrats argued. Typically, the restriction against using funds for abortions (referred to as the "Hyde amendment") has been applied only to taxpayer funds. In this case, however, the rule would apply to the victims' fund, even though it will be financed by fees paid by sex criminals.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers found a compromise, while keeping the abortion restrictions in place for the new fund. Money collected from sex criminals will be used for services like legal aid, while victims' health services will be funded by taxpayer money (and thus cannot be used for abortions).

Senators are slated to actually vote on the trafficking bill tomorrow. But even with the abortion issue settled, there's still a chance that political maneuvering could doom the legislation, according to Politico. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned that Democrats would block the bill if Republicans force a vote on controversial amendments concerning immigration and other issues. 

… the list of potential amendments include several immigration-related measures, such as one from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) meant to revoke birthright citizenship to those born in the United States but with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen, a member of the military, or a holder of a green card.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has two immigration-related proposals: one that allows for indefinite detention of certain immigrants who are in deportation proceedings, and another that would expedite removal of unaccompanied migrant children who come from countries other than Mexico or Canada — a provision in another trafficking law from 2008 that was at the heart of the debate over last summer's border crisis.

As an exercise in Congressional dysfunction, this human trafficking bill has been superb. But (as I've mentioned previously), this is one of those cases where gridlock is probably our best hope. From the kinds of projects the bill would fund to the new powers it would bestow on federal agents and the new criminal penalties it would create (for sex buyers), everything in the JVTA is oriented toward a punitive, tough-on-crime approach that ignores important realities about sex work, migration, and trafficking. The tactics it supports have proven remarkably useful for prosecuting ordinary prostitution, vice, and poverty while all but ignoring strategies that many victims and advocates claim would matter most. 

NEXT: What if you bring a gun onto 'educational property,' but don't know that it's educational property?

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  1. it will be financed by fees paid by sex criminals.

    Ah-HA!!

    1. So, institutions tasked with hunting down ‘sex criminals’ will be partially financed with funds they are licence to appropriate from those they find to be ‘sex criminals.’ Yeah, no moral hazard there or anything.

  2. such as one from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) meant to revoke birthright citizenship to those born in the United States but with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen, a member of the military, or a holder of a green card.

    Unconstitutional.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has two immigration-related proposals: one that allows for indefinite detention of certain immigrants who are in deportation proceedings

    Uh, super unconstitutional.

    They really hate them some Messicans in Lousiana and Oklahoma, I see.

    1. “Immigants! I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it
      was them.” — Sen. James Inhofe

    2. such as one from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) meant to revoke birthright citizenship to those born in the United States but with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen, a member of the military, or a holder of a green card.

      Unconstitutional.

      I’m curious if the bill reads “revoke” — indicating take it away from those who already have it without due process — or “deny” — indicating that the next time someone crosses the border illegally to have a child in a US hospital, and at least one of the parents doesn’t meet the above criteria, the child will not get citizenship.

      The first is unconstitutional, the second is not.

      1. Found it.

        Search for 301.

        (3) by adding at the end the following:
        “(b) Definition.–Acknowledging the right of birthright
        citizenship established by section 1 of the 14th Amendment to
        the Constitution of the United States, a person born in the
        United States shall be considered `subject to the
        jurisdiction’ of the United States for purposes of subsection
        (a)(1) only if the person is born in the United States and at
        least 1 of the person’s parents is–
        “(1) a citizen or national of the United States;
        “(2) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in
        the United States whose residence is in the United States; or
        “(3) an alien performing active service in the armed
        forces (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United States
        Code).”.
        (b) Applicability.–The amendment made by subsection (a)(3)
        may not be construed to affect the citizenship or nationality
        status of any person born before the date of the enactment of
        this Act.

        I didn’t think they be quite dumb enough to take the citizenship away from people who already had legally obtained it, but I figured I’d better check.

        1. I wonder if the “alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S.” language would cover emancipated slaves.

          The “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” has been construred to cover Indian territories, but not much else.

          The amendment would lose in court faster than you could say Dred Scott.

      2. …the second is not.

        Yeah… no. The second is patently unconstitutional. “Subject to the jurisdiction thereof” has a real meaning that is crystal clear.

  3. meant to revoke birthright citizenship to those born in the United States but with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen, a member of the military, or a holder of a green card.

    Great phrasing, Politico. Now we can’t tell whether you have to have two citizen parents, or just one.

  4. So the existing laws against kidnapping, false imprisonment, prostitution – buy side and sell side, rape – statutory and forcible, people smuggling, plus child labor laws, immigration laws , OSHA, minimum wage laws, W2 wage reporting, FICA collection aren’t enough to stop people trafficking so we need yet another law?

    1. The Republicans may kill it by larding it up with Brown-people-hating SnoConery.

      1. Cosmotarians-loving “brown people” and women at binocular distance since 1975.

        1. Btw, should’ve asked a long time ago, but what the hell is a cosmotarian?

          1. History’s first mention of the word “cosmotarian” appears to be in a comment here.

            You can read the thread and the quoted Nation article to get a flavor of the distinction between cosmotarian and paleotarian.

      2. Good. For once their labor market protectionism will serve a constructive purpose.

        Anyone else getting tired of the media using the phrase ‘sex trafficking’ as a pejorative for prostitution? I mean, that’s really what they’re going for it seems.

  5. According to what I read, this bill would still deny funds for trafficking victims who are pregnant to get abortions. That means they will be forced to grow their pregnancies, and the bills for their obstetric and neonatal care would be paid by–you guessed it–YOU, the taxpayer. Thus, this bill is a TAX HIKE.

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